How to Find an AirTag Hidden in Your Car: A Complete Guide

November 6, 2023

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Apple AirTags have become incredibly popular for tracking down lost items like keys, wallets, and more. However, some people have started using AirTags for more nefarious purposes, like tracking someone’s location or movements without their consent.

If you suspect someone has hidden an AirTag in your car to track you, this guide will walk you through how to find it.

What is an AirTag and How Does it Work?

Apple Airtag

An AirTag is a small, round tracking device developed by Apple. It uses Bluetooth technology to connect to Apple’s Find My network, allowing you to locate lost AirTagged items through the Find My app on your iPhone or iPad.

Here’s a quick rundown of how AirTags work:

  • AirTags emit a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby Apple devices. According to this source, AirTags do not have microphones and cannot hear conversations.
  • When an AirTag is away from the owner for an extended period, it will start making audible alert noises to notify anyone nearby. Learn more about how AirTags work without WiFi here.
  • If another Apple user comes within range of the lost AirTag, it will update its location on the Find My network.
  • The AirTag owner can then view the AirTag’s most recent location on a map in the Find My app, even if they are far away from it.

So in summary, AirTags leverage a large network of Apple devices to track locations, allowing you to find lost items over a much larger area than just standard Bluetooth range.

Why Would Someone Hide an AirTag in Your Car?

Unfortunately, the tracking capabilities of AirTags have led some individuals to use them to monitor people’s locations without consent. Some common nefarious uses of AirTags include:

  • Stalking/domestic abuse – Abusers could hide an AirTag in their partner’s car or belongings to track their location without permission.
  • Car theft – AirTags can be used to track high-value cars that thieves want to steal later. They return once the owner parks the car somewhere vulnerable.
  • Spying – People could secretly place an AirTag on someone else’s vehicle to monitor their movements and activities.
  • Harassment – AirTags could be used to consistently monitor someone’s patterns and whereabouts as a means of harassment.

While these uses are against the law and Apple’s policies, it’s still a possibility to be aware of if you suspect someone may want to track you without consent.

How to Check if an AirTag is Tracking You

If you’re an iPhone user, your device will automatically notify you if an unknown AirTag is traveling with you over time. But not everyone has an iPhone, so here are some other ways to check:

Listen for Alert Sounds

After being separated from its owner for 8-24 hours, an AirTag will start making audible alert chimes. These get louder over time, so listen closely when entering or exiting your vehicle. Learn more about why your AirTag might be beeping.

Use an NFC Scanner App

Many Android apps can scan for nearby NFC devices, which should detect any AirTags. Look for any unfamiliar device IDs that could potentially be an AirTag.

Check for “AirTag Found Moving With You” Notifications

iPhones will periodically notify you with this message if an unknown AirTag is detected moving consistently with you. Tap the notification for more details.

Conduct Regular Manual AirTag Scans

Actively scan for AirTags around your car using Apple’s Tracker Detect app (Android) or any NFC/Bluetooth scanning app. Make this a regular routine when parking your vehicle.

Apple's Tracker Detect App Airtag

By combining these manual scans with automatic iPhone alerts, you have multiple ways to detect any unwanted tracking.

How to Locate a Hidden AirTag in Your Car

Once you know an unwanted AirTag is traveling with you, it’s time to find where it’s hidden. Here are some tips:

1. Listen for Sound Alerts

Open the Find My app and select the unknown AirTag. You can force it to make noise by pressing “Play Sound.” Move around your car while listening closely to pinpoint the source.

Airtag Play Sound

2. Utilize Direction and Distance

The Find My app shows you distance and direction from the AirTag when close by. Use this to play a virtual hot/cold game, getting closer as the distance decreases.

Troubleshoot here if your AirTag’s location is not updating accurately in Find My.

3. Try Scanning Apps

Bluetooth scanning apps for Android can sometimes pinpoint the GPS coordinates or exact position of an AirTag. This gives you an augmented reality map to the source.

4. Search Methodically

Check under seats, in seat pockets, inside glove compartments, under floor mats, and in any crevice an AirTag could fit. Search thoroughly and systematically.

5. Search Externally Too

Don’t forget to check the exterior like wheel wells, behind bumpers, and underside of the chassis. Some magnetic phone mounts could even conceal an AirTag inside.

6. Remove Parts if Needed

You may need to safely remove interior panels, door sills, trim pieces, and other components to check thoroughly for a well-hidden AirTag. Here are some of the best places an AirTag might be hidden in a car.

With patience and an organized search, you can locate even a cleverly concealed tracking AirTag in your vehicle.

What To Do If You Find an Unknown AirTag

If your thorough search yields a mysterious AirTag that doesn’t belong to you, follow these steps:

  1. Disable the AirTag – Open the battery compartment and remove the battery to deactivate the tracker.
  2. Document Details – Photograph the AirTag, make note of any serial numbers, and record the date/time found.
  3. Contact Authorities – Alert local police about the unauthorized tracking device and provide any evidence.
  4. Inspect Vehicle – Check for any other tampering, damage, or hidden devices on the vehicle.
  5. Be Vigilant – Closely monitor your car and belongings for any further suspicious activity.
  6. Practice Security – Take preventative measures like parking in safe locations, installing cameras, using car covers/locks, etc. You may also want to invest in a passport holder or bag with AirTag protection to block tracking.

Disabling the rogue AirTag immediately ensures your location is no longer being tracked. Notifying authorities creates an official record in case of continued stalking or harassment. And remaining vigilant denies the perpetrator any further tracking opportunities.

Key Takeaways: Finding an Unwanted AirTag in Your Vehicle

  • Listen for audible alert chimes from unknown AirTags after several hours of separation from their owner.
  • Leverage your iPhone’s automatic “AirTag Found Moving With You” notifications if applicable.
  • Frequently scan for nearby NFC/Bluetooth signals that could indicate a hidden AirTag.
  • Use Find My and scanning apps to pinpoint the AirTag’s location once detected.
  • Search methodically and thoroughly both inside and outside the vehicle.
  • Disable any foreign AirTags by removing the battery immediately.
  • Document details and notify authorities if you discover a rogue tracking device.
  • Practice preventative measures and vigilance against further suspicious activity.

With the right knowledge and tools, you can identify unwanted AirTags and protect yourself against unauthorized tracking attempts. Stay alert and act quickly when discovery occurs to disable tracking and prevent escalated stalking or car theft. Handle the situation safely and smartly.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about finding illicit tracking AirTags placed in your car without consent. While we hope such concerning usage remains rare, it’s important for everyone to understand the risks, detection methods, and response protocols.

With complete knowledge, you can confidently search for and disable any hidden AirTags. Stay vigilant, take appropriate precautions, and use this resource as needed to maintain your location privacy.